An overview of abortion laws that regulate the worldwide availability of pregnancy termination services. Two-thirds of the world's women reside in countries where abortion is legal, although abortion laws vary widely by country. In the 20th century, many Western countries began to codify abortion law or place further restrictions on the practice.
By the mid 20th century, many countries had begun to liberalize abortion laws, at least when performed to protect the life of the woman, and in some cases on woman's request. The Soviet Union legalized abortions on request in 1920. Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania legalized abortion in the late 1950's under pressure from the Soviets.
In the 1930's, several countries (Poland, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Mexico) legalized abortion in some special cases (pregnancy from rape, threat to mother's health, fetal malformation). In 1948 abortion was legalized in Japan, 1952 in Yugoslavia (on a limited basis), and 1955 in the Soviet Union (on demand).
The United Kingdom, Abortion Act of 1967 legalised abortions as legal up to 28 weeks, it was later reduced to 24 weeks.
Other countries soon followed, including Canada (1969), the United States (1973 in most states, pursuant to Roe v. Wade – the U.S. Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion nationwide)
Tunisia (1973), Denmark (1973), Austria (1974), France (1975), Sweden (1975), New Zealand (1977), Italy (1978), the Netherlands (1980), and Belgium (1990).
There are no international or multinational treaties that deal directly with abortion, but human rights law touches on the issues.
In the 2010 case of A, B and C v Ireland, the European Court of Human Rights found that the European Convention on Human Rights did not include a right to an abortion.
The American Convention on Human Rights, which in 2013 had 23 Latin American parties, declares human life as commencing with conception.
According to the UN World Abortion Policies 2013, abortion is allowed in 97% of countries in order to save a woman's life.
Abortion is accepted in the cases of preserving physical (68 percent) or mental health (65 percent), rape or incest (51 percent), and foetal impairment (50 percent).
Performing abortion only on the basis of a woman's request is allowed in 30% of countries were 42 percent of the world's population live
Abortion is legal in the following European countries Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Ukraine
Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, Finland, Iceland and United Kingdom, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Republic of Macedonia
The exceptions are Malta, Northern Ireland, Vatican City, San Marino, Liechtenstein and Andorra, where abortion is illegal. Poland and Monaco allow abortion with restrictions
Abortion became legal in the US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade in 1973, although in practice the effective availability of abortion varies significantly from state to state
Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) ruled states cannot place legal restrictions posing an undue burden for "the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetuss
42 states require an abortion to be performed by a licensed physician. 3 states prohibit abortions, generally except when necessary to protect the woman’s life after a specified point
Abortion became legal in South Africa when the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act (Act 92 of 1996) was passed. Any woman can get an abortion if she is less than 13 weeks pregnant.
A woman under the age of 18 will be advised to consult her parents, but she can decide not to inform or consult them if she so chooses. Section 12(2)(a) and 27(1)(a) of the Bill of Rights mention reproductive rights
In general, only medical doctors may perform abortions. Nurses who have received special training may also perform abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy.